I lift my eyes to the hills, do you know psalm 121 is the most favored Psalm? When people are in trouble, they lift their eyes to the hills. The hills, at that time were not places of safety. The hills were where you would find ambush, the hills were where trouble was hard, the hills were the sight of the hard journey ahead.
When you saw what laid ahead, where does your help come?
From the Lord who is higher up than any hill in your path. Look to heavens.
Is it any wonder than that in John 3: 1-17 talks about being from that very place where the help comes. Born from above, born again. In one of the few puns we underwent from the Greek, surely Jesus is calling upon his Hebrew heritage. For though his home language was Aramaic, the scriptures were in Hebrew so Jesus is hinting at his knowledge of the ancient texts.
He gives this response to a Pharisee–a scholar, a learned teacher of Israel, who doe not get the pun. Nicodemus does not get the joke. He doesn’t get it.
But I have hope that the reason why Nicodemus comes to Jesus, in the middle of the night, proclaiming him to be a teacher of God. Nicodemus is grasping at who Jesus is. So close and yet so far. But yet, don’t we all grasp with the meaning of who Jesus is, don’t we grasp at the parables trying still to get at their meaning, and if anyone knows what being born again truly and fully means you are a lot farther along in your faith than I am in mine.
Nicodemus is the man with the right questions. He is grappling with God. He sees the path ahead and understand that there are obstacles in the path, and he looks to Jesus for answer.
Jesus, in his way, responds with a mystery and more questions. “No one can see the kingdom without being born again/from above.” He defines the mystery with a mystery telling Nicodemus he needs to be born of water and the spirit.
And in the mess of all this mystery Jesus let’s loose the text that almost all Christians find foundational John 3:16 and John 3:17
Here Jesus reminds Nicodemus that he came to love the world, to save it, to not be condemned. Nicodemus is trying to get to the bottom of the meaning and particularities, using his scholarly mind to bring critical thinking to Christ.
Christ comes back with such depths of theology that Nicodemus had a lot of trouble understanding.
I like to think that John 3:16-17 was reassuring to Nicodemus, you don’t have to understand God’s purpose, because God loves you and will benefit you with or without understanding.
We are blessed not with complete understanding but to be a blessing as Genesis 12:1-4 promises.
I find this reassuring in another way, because when you raise your eyes to the hills you do so knowing that you don’t know exactly what will happen on the journey. However, you do know from whom your help comes.
Nicodemus is reassured, it’s less about judgement and it’s more about love. Hopefully we can carry that in the midst of our own mysterious journeys.
Where are you this week with the text are you focusing on John 3, Psalm 121, Genesis 12, Romans 4 or something else?